Preview ▲ Union Comes To Amherst To Close Out First Half Of Season

Union College Dutchmen 5-6-4 (2-5-1) ECAC T-10th


Massachusetts Minutemen 6-7-4 (2-4-4) Hockey East T-6th

I’m not sure I’d reach into the bag of clichés and call Friday’s game against Union a “must-win”, especially since it’s versus a non-conference opponent.  But, it would be a big positive for the Massachusetts hockey team to head into winter break with a win, especially since they’ve gone winless in their last 8.  A win would bring the Minutemen back to .500 for the season, a position not many people around college hockey thought they’d be at this point in the season.

I believe I said the same in my Notre Dame preview last week (and that didn’t turn out so well), but on paper UMass looks to be pretty evenly matched with Union.  They’re both one game under .500 and while UMass is 25th in the current KRACH rankings, the Dutchmen are just a couple spots ahead of them at 23rd.  Union has had a pretty tough schedule, playing ranked teams in 7 of their 15 games so far.  While their 5-6-4 record is not what we’ve grown accustomed to from them in recent years, the Dutchmen do have some impressive wins thus far.  They beat Boston University 5-3 in the first weekend of the season when the Terriers were ranked 5th, beat then #17 Clarkson 4-1, and shutout ranked Merrimack just after Thanksgiving 4-0.  What really hurt Union this season was a 8 game stretch where they went 1-1-6, a streak that included two overtime losses.  One of those overtime defeats was a 2-1 loss to the same Yale team that beat UMass 6-1.

Offensively Union is very similar to UMass, scoring 2.67 goals per game to the Minutemen’s 2.76., both slightly above average in college hockey.  The Dutchmen are led by sophomore Ryan Scarfo who has 8 goals on the season, with half those coming on the power play and 1 scored shorthanded.  Sophomore Spencer Foo has 6 six goals on the season, though 2 of those have been with an empty net, and he leads the Dutchmen with 11 total points.  Union has not been overly effective with their power play, converting just 15.9% of chances, so that’s an opportunity for UMass’ surging penalty kill to gain an advantage.

Union has been the better defensive team so far this season, letting in just 2.60 goals per game to UMass’ 3.47.  The Dutchmen boast the 10th best penalty kill in the country which isn’t good news for a UMass team that is riding a six game power play goal drought.  Junior Alex Sakellaropoulus has started most of their games in net this season and has done pretty well with a 4-4-4 record.  His .928 save percentage is 20th best in the country and he has two shutouts so far this season, one coming against Merrimack and the other coming in Union’s most recent game a 3-0 win over Dartmouth.

UMass needs to solve their scoring woes, but this Union team with a tough penalty kill and solid goaltending is going to be a challenge to do so against.  The Minutemen have scored only 8 goals in their last 11 games and have scored 1 or less in their last 5.  They have not managed more than 30 shots on goal in their last 6 games.  In that time though the defense and goaltending has been pretty good.  They have not allowed a power play goal in 8 games and have given up 3 or less goals in five of those games.

We’ve heard a lot about the tough road-heavy schedule for the Minutemen in the first half of the season but the team has the chance to head into winter break with a home game.  As the team splits up and goes their separate ways to celebrate the holidays with their families it would be nice to do so with a win and some momentum in their pockets.  It looked like the program’s fortunes had finally turned around a little over a month ago when their sweep against UConn put their record at 6-2-1.  But they’ve been stuck on 6 wins ever since.  Win #7 would be a great way to close out the first semester.

Game preview from UMass Athletics.

The heavy road schedule is a main focus of the Collegian’s game preview.

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